Eames is away on a job.
Specifically, he is away on a job without Arthur, because they are grown-ups and professionals—and the job had been arranged before Arthur kissed Eames at LAX and took him out to dinner, and then brought him back to his apartment for a brief but thorough ‘I would follow you to the ends of the universe and back again in a completely non-platonic way’ conversation, followed by a less brief but equally thorough round of what Eames referred to as ‘making love.’
Three weeks later, and Eames is gone.
Temporarily, Arthur reminds himself, and busies himself by re-organizing the bookshelf.
The first email comes on the third day. It’s from an untraceable account, the kind you can’t even reply to, but that’s all right. The simple confirmation that Eames is a) alive and b) thinking about him is enough.
The name you’re looking for is David Černý.
Not one of my aliases, incidentally.
Arthur’s first thought is what?
After his instincts kick in (i.e. Google), his second thought is, oh shit.
Eames has read the emails.
Eames has read the emails Arthur wrote (but didn’t send), while Arthur was falling in love with him.
Which is mostly fine, because they’ve actually had the whole serious-committed-adult-relationship discussion, as if they were normal, mature adults and not internationally renowned mind-thieves.
Really, Arthur isn’t sure why he’s worried about it. It just seems like the sort of thing one should be worried about.
On the fifth day, Arthur is out on a run when his phone chimes its special new-email chime. For a fraction of a second, Arthur considers ignoring it—Ariadne’s biological clock and Dom’s latest ‘Phillipa and/or James are so cute but also can you babysit tonight’ ramble can both wait until after he’s back at his apartment—but then he remembers the email could be from Eames.
(His boyfriend/partner/extremely significant, serious, and very sexy other, his mind adds helpfully.)
I am offended you would ever doubt that I have tried glass-blowing; I am very good.
I’m sorry about the destruction of your old wine glasses. (Not really. It was, as you say, for a good cause. That was a lovely night, darling.)
The new set: also lovely.
Arthur is drifting off to sleep on the sixth day when the next email comes through.
I would have come if you had asked.
The sex is very dull here too
Meaning there isn’t any
To be clear: I miss you darling
And not just the sex
Although the sex is a very nice bonus
There’s a bit of a delay after that, but Arthur doesn’t worry, because if anything went down that he did need to worry about—well, he would know.
It’s just normal job-quiet, so Arthur babysits Phillipa and James and researches potential new jobs that he and Eames could take together and calls Yusuf to discuss a new Somnacin compound the chemist is working on.
The next email comes on the twelfth day.
In case I haven’t already made this clear I don’t think you’re a stuck-up asshole. At all. I always looked forward to working with you and I can’t wait to work with you now that we’re together.
I will always provide knock-knock jokes and bad puns. I’m thoughtful like that.
On day fourteen, the email is just: Knock-knock jokes don’t work as well in writing. Sorry love
Arthur is at the grocery store on day seventeen when his email alert goes off. He doesn’t let himself read the email right then, because—if Eames continues to follow the emails Arthur wrote to him—he doesn’t want to read Eames’s take on their relationship (past or present) next to the organic avocados.
He washes the fruit and cuts the vegetables before opening the email. He tells himself he’s just being responsible.
- Making dinner together
- Burning dinner together because we can’t keep our hands off each other
- Doing the dishes together
- AKA KITCHEN SEX your counter is the perfect height A+ apartment choice
- (Sleepy kisses on nights when we’re too tired to have sex because that’s going to happen even though we are HOT VIRILE YOUNG MEN)
- But also sharing the Sunday paper because you’re secretly an old person
- We should find something to bicker about. [insert thing we bicker about here. Your choice! This is an audience participation email!]
- Oh! The telly! We can bicker about what to watch. I will sometimes let you win. I will also convert you to all of my shows, that seems like a good compromise
- Changed my mind on the telly/bickering thing. Your feet are always FREEZING. Wear socks.
- Never mind, I will buy you slippers. And your couch needs a throw blanket. How can we have proper couch snuggles without a comfy throw blanket? I don’t know how you lived there without me. (I DO, but I’m glad you don’t anymore.)
- Speaking of the couch: can I paint you like one of my French boys?
- I’m going to take that as a yes.
- I think I have become distracted?? You are very distracting. In a good way. Because you’re the best and I want to play dumb card games with you when the power goes out some evening and there’s still just enough light to see
- You probably keep lots of torches and extra batteries
- I need to finish this up because I have a job to finish up but basically
- Lots and lots of fantastic sex
- Falling asleep together after
- Waking up together in the morning
On the twenty-second day, Eames walks into the apartment while Arthur is on the couch, reading You Only Live Twice.
“I was watching your passports,” Arthur blurts, confused and worried that he’s just completely dropped the ball on the one constant in their relationship and also hurt that Eames might have deliberately set him up to drop said metaphorical ball.
“I thought we were doing hello kisses now?” Eames says from his spot by the door.
“At the airport. By baggage claim,” Arthur says, but he crosses the room and gives Eames a quick kiss anyway.
Eames sets his hands on Arthur’s waist, holding him a little apart as he scrutinizes Arthur’s face. Arthur makes sure to look very disgruntled.
“I’m sorry, love,” Eames says. He kisses Arthur’s forehead. “I’m sorry. I thought it would be a nice surprise? I made a whole new alias, just for this. I’ve been without you for twenty-two days and I wanted the second minute I saw you to be very not-safe-for-baggage-claim, so I thought I’d better come home right away.”
“The second minute?”
“The first minute is for hello kisses,” says Eames.
Arthur feels his shoulders relax, and he allows a smile to flood his face.
“Okay,” he says. “Hello.”
He kisses Eames again.
“I have a confession to make,” Eames says.
“Come make it on the couch,” says Arthur.
He tugs Eames toward the couch, and Eames trips a bit, trying to take his shoes off along the way, but they manage to fall onto the couch together, and if Eames smells a bit like airport, that’s nothing a shared shower can’t fix.
“All right, confess,” says Arthur. “Although, first: you’re complaining about twenty-two days? Try one hundred and thirty-eight.”
“I know,” says Eames. “About that.”
Oh, Arthur thinks, a small pool of anxiety welling in his stomach. Is this an actual confession? But no, Eames had insisted on the hello kisses, and no one with an actual confession insisted on hello kisses. Arthur focuses his eyes on the couch’s armrest and tries to determine the optimal color for their future throw blanket.
“After it officially became my business to defend you to the death,” Eames begins, “I set up a forwarding system from your email. Any unsent drafts you write that are addressed to me are forwarded.”
“In case I’m unable to,” Arthur says quietly.
“Right,” says Eames. “Only, it turns out the program works retroactively? So I got the emails you wrote while you were on that endless job.”
“Okay,” says Arthur.
There’s a brief pause. “Okay? No, ‘Eames, that is a gross violation of my privacy and I’m breaking up with you for being a thoughtless arsehole?’”
“No,” says Arthur. He wriggles a bit until he can fully see Eames’s face. “You just read me being an idiot for nearly five months. Are you going to break up with me for that?”
“You weren’t being an idiot,” says Eames. “You were figuring out what you wanted and what you felt and everybody goes through that process, they just don’t always write it down.”
“All right,” says Arthur. He shifts a little more, until he’s straddling Eames. “Ready for the second minute?”